You didn’t get off the tools to become a firefighter and yet dealing with problem spot fires left, right and centre can have you feeling like one. It’s also taking your time and focus away from other tasks and from loved ones.
When building your business, and your team, hiring people to do straightforward tasks is just the beginning. If you really want to reduce your stress, get things running smoothly and have customers coming back (for all the right reasons), you need to make sure your team can deal with things on their own and problem solve for themselves. But how do you get your staff to do this and how do you allow yourself to trust them to get it done to your standard?
Training and empowerment.
Yep, that’s right. You need to teach them what to do and motivate them to do it. But where do you start?
- Identify the problem(s)
The best place to start is by working out what problems your staff most commonly face. Take some time to sit down and work out what problems come up most regularly and keep a memo ready to jot down any other problems that come up that you think might be useful to train your staff on. Don’t just limit this to worksite problems but office tasks, customer complaints etc too. You can even ask your staff what problems they face or just keep track of the questions they keep sending your way.
- Think of solutions
Work out how to solve the problems you and your team identified. Maybe this could be a team workshop to get everyone thinking about the best solutions and get their feedback on you’re your approaches. Maybe someone even knows a better answer to the problem than you? Maybe they don’t? A workshop is a great way to connect with everyone and get them all on the same page but if you can’t make this happen then thinking about solutions yourself is fine – just don’t close yourself off to receiving feedback in the future.
- Write it out
You know the problems and answers so now it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it down. Make clear procedures on what to do when stuff hits the fan and your team needs help.
X issue? Do Y and then follow up with Z. If Z doesn’t work, escalate to this person.
- Talk it out
Don’t throw a book of procedures at your team and expect them to enthusiastically dig straight in like a Labrador at a buffet. Talk them through it. This is another great chance for a workshop or a something thing to bring to a one-on-one meeting. Ask them for their feedback. Go through your expectations about how they’ll implement it and also offer some boundaries – you don’t want to give a free house build to someone who was unhappy with a fence!
Hint: if you want your team to work independently to problem solve, let them know you believe they can do it and trust them.
- Add a layer of help
Spend some extra time training up a senior staff member to handle escalated problems on your behalf. Make sure the team know they can go to this person as well as to you and that they should be the first point of contact when things fall outside of what they themselves can solve. You should also introduce this person to your clients so that they know they have another senior contact in the company other than you!
As time goes on, you’ll probably encounter new problems, solutions might not be adequate anymore and some procedures just might not be serving their purpose. Be open to staff feedback and be open to change and revision. Work with your team and encourage them to let you know if they see a better way to get things done – best case scenario, you get an even better solution; worst case scenario, ‘thanks for the suggestion, keep ‘em coming but this one might not be quite what we’re after’.
There you have it! A quick guide to training your staff in problem solving. You’ve done the easy bit now which was reading this. Now it’s time for action!